The classic classroom assignment of putting together your family tree as a kid just got more “complicated” according to The New York Times. Not all family portraits look the same anymore what with surrogates, same-sex parents, sperm donors, and of course adoption. Teachers are finding themselves in a position of having conversations with children that they perhaps weren’t prepared for in previous generations. Sadly, this possibility has stopped some schools from continuing with the time treasured assignment altogether.
The Times writes:
Some families now organize their family tree into two separate histories: genetic and emotional. Some schools, where charting family history has traditionally been a classroom project, are now skipping the exercise altogether.
Adriana Murphy, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at the Green Acres School in Rockville, Md., said she asked students to write a story about an aspect of their family history instead. At Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, KC Cohen, a counselor, said the family tree had been mostly relegated to foreign language class, where students can practice saying “brother” or “sister” in French and Spanish.
“You have to be ready to have that conversation about surrogates, sperm donors and same-sex parents if you are going to teach the family tree in the classroom,” Ms. Cohen said.
Most troubling about this decision to skip doing a family tree is that it reaffirms the notion that a “family” is strictly the traditional, nuclear layout. By refraining from the exercise in the wake of queer families, single parents, and surrogacy, the conventional perception of family is preserved instead of being asked to evolve. It may be difficult for adults to parse out who is the “actual” mother, father, or guardian of a child in our contemporary world, but ask any child who their parents are and they’ll tell you without hesitation. They won’t have any issue drawing a line between their two daddies and citing themselves and their siblings as part of said union.
It would seem that the only people who find a modern family tree exercise too “complicated” are the grownups.